The relationship between Agility and enterprise architecture (EA) hasn’t always been a positive one in many organizations. The inability of EA processes to adapt to rapid incremental delivery approaches raises questions about the relevance of the EA practice. The framework presented below provides a structured approach to right-sizing EA to an organization’s context.
Today’s organizations are increasingly partnering with various external players in the business ecosystem to create unique value propositions. Digital technologies have played a critical role in helping to unlock business value that was not reachable before. The scope of the system is no longer limited to or contained within the organization but is rather integrated with partners/suppliers and various other players in the business ecosystem. As organizations get into a hyperdrive to be the first movers, the supporting EA processes also have to be adapted to the changing needs. To support the shift, traditional sequential software delivery approaches are being abandoned and more agile methodologies are being adopted.
It has become challenging to take a strategic approach while keeping up with the pace of change. As a result, EA has fallen out of fashion. The concerning fact is that EA is being totally abandoned when it can be used to help organizations handle uncertainty effectively. One of the root causes is the lack of understanding of EA and unwillingness to adapt EA processes to changing times.
One must rewire the EA operating model by right-sizing it to evolving business needs and taking a deeper look into its fundamental components: Organization Structure, Engagement Process Model, and Architectural Governance. All three components of the EA operating model have to be adapted to an Agile environment to address the challenges facing EA practices.
At a very high level, we can categorize the work performed by an EA team into three work streams:
Info-Tech’s framework to adapt EA to an Agile operating context can be represented as a 3X3 matrix to identify the implications.
Enterprise architecture is a strategic business technology function and hence interacts with several management practices within the organization. It is important to redesign the interaction points of EA within the organization as the management processes themselves are being optimized for agility.
The implications of such a change is that the number of changes/feature sets being rolled out is increasing exponentially with iterative incremental releases. In a rapid, iterative delivery model, the volume and intensity of projects assigned to architects will inevitably increase. Thus, organizations that try to force fit the traditional resourcing model by assigning technology architects to projects run the risk of overstretching their teams. A different approach to resourcing will be needed in order to ensure that the project load is evenly distributed and manageable for the architecture practice.
The more practical approach to support such an environment will be to coach delivery teams to think like an architect rather than doing it for them. This would be more like a clock builder approach to architecture design rather than a time teller approach. In the proposed Agile engagement model, an organization should be able to make do with a few Enterprise Architects whose primary objective is to coach teams on creating/leveraging reusable components and applying tactics to reduce the total cost of ownership of technology. The coaching aspect can be more formalized through a center of excellence model.
In one case, a large financial institution established an architecture learning center, which was facilitated by architecture team to train software developers and technical analysts on architecture skills. The learning center provided a platform to discuss technology trends and potential opportunities to standardize. The massification of architectural skills not only increased the employee engagement levels but also increased the number of reusable components being developed. The architectural learning center is an open-for-all platform that provides an opportunity for IT employees to expand their skillsets.
The primary objective of architecture governance is to ensure that initiatives are aligned to strategic priorities and the solutions being designed are compliant with standards, thereby reducing the total cost of ownership of technology. Governance is all about decision making and a governance framework revolves around three fundamental questions:
The governance approach around the three streams of architectural work – project support, standard setting and strategic planning – needs to be adapted to an Agile environment.
In one instance, a North American insurance provider disbanded its Architecture Review Board (ARB) and established an architecture center of excellence, whose mandate was to promote architectural discussions within the organization. Furthermore, the organization fine-tuned the architecture review process by publishing architecture self-assessment checklists and best practices. Initially the number of architecture exceptions quadrupled, but rather than addressing the deficiencies through a closed-door ARB review, the architecture team addressed the issues through evangelizing mitigating tactics through the center of excellence. As a direct benefit of such an approach, the number of architecture exceptions has gone down by more than 50% over a three-year horizon.
Enterprise Architects are senior business and technology strategists who have a strong understanding of business priorities and can identify business process, information, application, infrastructure, and security improvements. Rather than hiring or moving these senior professionals into one reporting relationship, organizations should explore a practice approach. In a practice approach we can make do with a few Enterprise Architects while tapping into the different teams across the organization for expertise. The practice approach provides more degrees of freedom to involve people from multiple teams (reporting units) into one common practice with shared goals and objectives.
In one instance, a Canadian bank reconfigured the EA team with Business Architects reporting to the COO organization and the IT Architecture reporting to the CIO organization. Bringing together both business and technology groups into one EA practice with shared goals and objectives encouraged collaboration between business and technology. As a result, architectural discussions were more focused on business-value delivery rather than technology excellence.
Adapt the enterprise architecture operating model to changing business conditions or run the risk of being irrelevant.
Review our Define an EA Operating Model publication for practical/tactical guidance.
These are the trends we predict will be most important is it relates to Enterprise Architecture in 2021.
Lean IX and Apptio have partnered to produce an integrated solution that better informs the strategic decision-making process with improved visibility into an application’s total cost of ownership and alignment to business capabilities.
From the business architecture perspective, agility is the ability to quickly change structurally and operationally to react to external changes or to create new business value. Enterprise architecture comprises business and service/application architecture – therefore, it needs to provide an environment for harmonized agility at each level.
This note outlines some of the fundamental KPIs that you should measure to show the success of the enterprise architecture team. It also discusses how you measure them and visualize the result.
The application portfolio management (APM) tool space can be a confusing one, as many software vendors offer their own take of what APM is. Enterprise architecture, application management and project portfolio management tools offer an APM use case, but these are often quite skewed the primary function of the tool.
Application rationalization fails when the chosen framework does not match your scenario or the goals for your application portfolio. This note looks at how to apply application rationalization during an M&A.
Often people misidentify the purpose of application rationalization, leading to misuse and unsatisfactory results. We try to break application rationalization down to its simplest form to understand how to make the most of this critical IT function. tr
Measuring technical debt is important, but more important is communicating the implications of this problem in terms of risk to business capabilities. Cast Highlight tools are used for application portfolio management (APM), specializing in applying code analytics to business decisions regarding your organization’s applications.
Many application rationalization tools and frameworks miss the true benefits of this practice, as they only assess the individual application without consideration for its redundancies. Infusing an enterprise architecture perspective, as seen with LeanIX, will generate the bigger savings you are looking for.